Why Athletes Need to Learn to Land Before Performing Jump Training

If you don't have proper landing technique, you're putting yourself at increased risk for injury.

Vertical jump training should be taught to athletes at every level. It not only improves jump performance, but it also creates a more resilient body.

However, too many athletes and coaches are doing it the wrong way, and athletes aren't seeing the results they desire. Or worse, they are experiencing injuries.

RELATED: How to Prevent Knee Injuries When Landing and Decelerating

The key is to start by learning landing technique. Admittedly it doesn't sound as exciting as explosively jumping, but landing is the foundation of everything. If an athlete can't land, he or she can't jump. And odds are, technique deficiencies will lead other performance issues or injury.

A soft landing with the proper technique and joint angles allows the hips, knees and ankles to properly absorb the tremendous forces from the landing. If an athlete has a propensity for landing like an elephant, then something is out of whack, and more forces will be transferred to sensitive structures—the exact opposite of what we want.

RELATED: 3 Box Jump Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Vertical Jump

A soft landing absorbs more force in the body, allowing for greater gains in neuromuscular development . It also creates 25 percent less angular impulse in the ankle joint than landing stiff.

A movement through the hip complex and lower extremities, the Vertical Jump requires triple extension at the ankle, knee, and hip, and an explosive arm drive.

Here's a breakdown of how I coach my athletes to land:

  • Touch your toes first and roll back onto your heels, lowering into a quarter squat with bent knees and hips.
  • Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart with your knees behind your toes; you shins should be approximately vertical.
  • Sit your hips back similar to the athletic-ready position and keep your knees in line with your ankles and hips. Do not let them cave in.
  • Keep your back flat, neck neutral and tighten your core.
  • Your hands should be behind you, as if you were about to jump again.

To help reinforce this technique so an athlete can repeat it in live game situations, I film my athletes when they are landing, in slow motion if possible. It helps to more easily identify potential risks and deficits.

I use the following Landing Error Scoring System (LESS) to evaluate my athletes. A high LESS score indicates great risk and a lower LESS score indicates fewer movement pattern errors.

In the "Error Condition" column, note any conditions demonstrated or errors made by your athlete(s) if they scored YES on the LESS Score for each LESS item.

RELATED: Try This Jumping Technique That Actually Protects Your Knees

Add the number of "YES" scores once completed. Although no significant number proves  you are at risk, this helps to see where an athlete is and if he or she improves from the training. A high score indicates areas of concern that should be addressed and added to an individualized training program to decrease the chance of a non-contact ACL injury.

 

LESS item Operational definition Camera

view

Error condition LESS score
1 Knee flexion angle at

initial contact

At the point of initial contact, if the knee of the test leg is flexed more than 30 degrees, score YES. If the knee is not flexed more than 30 degrees, score NO. Side
2 Hip flexion angle at

initial contact

At the point of initial contact, if the thigh of the test leg is in line with the trunk, then the hips are not flexed and score NO. If the thigh of the test leg is flexed on the trunk, score YES. Side
3 Trunk flexion angle at

initial contact

At the point of initial contact, if the trunk is vertical or extended on the hips, score NO. If the trunk is flexed on the hips, score YES. Side
4 Ankle plantarflexion

angle at initial

contact

If the foot of the test leg lands toe to heel, score NO. If the foot of the test leg lands heel to toe or with a flat foot, score YES. Side
5 Knee valgus angle at

initial contact

At the point of initial contact, draw a line straight down from the center of the patella. If the line goes through the midfoot, score NO. If the line is medial to the midfoot, score YES. Front
6 Lateral trunk flexion

angle at initial

contact

At the point of initial contact, if the midline of the trunk is flexed to the left or the right side of the body, score YES. If the trunk is not flexed to the left or right side of the body, score NO. Front
7 Stance width—wide Once the entire foot is in contact with the ground, draw a line from the tip of the shoulders. If the line on the side of the test leg is inside the foot of the test leg, greater than shoulder-width (wide), score YES. If the test foot is internally or externally rotated, grade the stance width based on heel placement. Front
8 Stance width—narrow Once the entire foot is in contact with the ground, draw a line from the tip of the shoulders. If the line on the side of the test leg is outside the foot, less than shoulder-width (narrow), score YES. If the test foot is internally or externally rotated, grade the stance width-based on heel placement. Front
9 Foot position—toe in If the foot of the test leg is internally rotated more than 30 degrees between the time of initial contact and max knee flexion, score YES. If the foot is not internally rotated more than 30 degrees between the time of initial contact to max knee flexion, score NO. Front
10 Foot position—toe out If the foot of the test leg is externally rotated more than 30 degrees between the time of initial contact and max knee flexion, score YES. If the foot is not externally rotated more than 30 degrees between the time of initial contact to max knee flexion, score NO. Front
11 Symmetric initial foot

contact

If one foot lands before the other or if one foot lands heel to toe and the other lands toe to heel, score YES. If the feet land symmetrically, score NO. Front
12 Knee flexion

displacement

If the knee of the test leg flexes 45 degrees more than the angle at the position of initial contact to max knee flexion, score YES. If the knee of the test leg does not flex more than 45 degrees, score NO Side
13 Hip flexion at max

knee flexion

If the thigh of the test leg flexes more on the trunk from initial contact to max knee flexion angle, score YES. If the thigh does not flex more on the trunk, score NO Side
14 Trunk flexion at max

knee flexion

If the trunk flexes more from the point of initial contact to max knee flexion, score YES. If the trunk does not flex more, score NO. Side

 


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: VERTICAL JUMP | KNEE INJURIES